Turn on the Light

There was a picture that went around on social media years ago of a snake wrapped around a toilet, a big snake. Supposedly it had come in through or around the plumbing and made itself at home. In the middle of the night the owner went to the bathroom and happened to turn on the light to find the snake before they sat down. I vowed to always turn on the light. This week I broke that vow.

Sunday night I was trying to start the week off right, so I cleaned up the kitchen, turned on the dishwasher and put away some laundry. Feeling pretty good about things, I grabbed a plastic bag to go clean out the litter boxes for the evening. One of the boxes is in the corner of my office (aka the cat’s room). I didn’t bother to turn on the light because I could see well enough by the light of the computer, or so I thought. I took two steps in and hit something slick and my foot slid out from under me and I fell to my knee, the same knee I fell on back in July. I got up and turned on the light and discovered my geriatric cat with IBS had gotten sick (mostly fluid) and I didn’t hear him because of the dishwasher noise. An ice pack, ibuprofen and prayer later, I thankfully had no real injuries, but I still had to get up and go clean up the mess.

The thought came to me that if I had only turned on the light, then I would have seen the danger before I stepped in it. The same is true spiritually. If we turn on the light, God’s Word, His Holy Spirit will alert us to impending danger so that we can avoid it.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:16

My Bible reading for the day was James 5:16. When I fell, I was worried I had caused even more injury to my knee after I had just regained pain free use of it. I messaged someone I knew would pray and asked for prayer that my knee would not have a serious injury because I had a lot of obligations that needed my attention that week.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

My Bible reading the next day was Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. God has a sense of humor and great timing. I may have been physically alone when I fell, but I was not alone. The Holy Spirit was right there with me, and I had another believer willing to pray for me. I also had these verses of scripture to encourage me that came at just the right time to encourage me and lift me up.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalms 119:105

The Word of God is a light that we need to keep turned on. We don’t have to worry about a power bill because it has a never ending source of perpetual power. It is always on, but we do have some control of the on/off switch. We can turn it off and sit in the dark, or we can turn it on by opening the scripture and letting it guide us. When we study the Word daily, it will come to our minds just when we need it most.

So as we start each day, it is a good idea to start with the Word of God so that He can guide us through the twists and turns of this world gone crazy. Oh, and don’t forget to turn on the light. It could save you from slipping and falling or from really big snakes in the bathroom.

Suit Up

I know several motorcycle people, and all of them are into wearing protective clothing when riding. I usually see them putting on jackets and gloves as well as goggles and helmets. They are always wearing the proper clothing and shoes for riding. I found the following acronym on a biker lingo blog:

ATGATT = All The Gear, All The Time (helmet, gloves, vest, trousers and boots).

Some even talk about armor, or specially reinforced gear. I thought it was a great reminder that has spiritual implications:

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesian 6: 11-17

The reason we put on the armor of God is the same reason bikers put on their gear: protection. When I took martial arts, I wore gear when I was sparring to reduce the chance of injury. Bikers and martial artists suit up as protection  just in case there is an incident. Even more so, we should wear our spiritual armor because we are going into battle every day. It isn’t a chance of battle; it is a foregone conclusion.

Not only should we wear it every day, but we should also wear every piece of armor. Each piece protects a different part of our being. Whatever we leave undefended, the enemy will target. For example, if I want to retrieve something from my car but I don’t want to take the trouble of finding my shoes. I tiptoe out over the hot concrete, and while I am digging around in my car, a fire ant bites my foot. It’s the same in our spiritual lives. Every piece has a purpose.

We wear a helmet to protect our mind, we wear the breastplate to protect our heart, the belt of truth keeps us grounded, the shield of faith protects us from the enemies weapons, and our feet are prepared to step out to do God’s Will. Our only weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word. People often say talk is cheap, but not this talk. God’s Word is powerful, more powerful than a two-edged sword because it can cut to the heart of the matter. Not only that, God’s Word also brought the world into being. What He says happens. When we wield His Word wisely, no foe can stand against us.

So, before you leave the house, or maybe even the bed, suit up. You never know what the day will bring.

Extra Portion

35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.

Genesis 41:35-36

We often say at work that it is either a feast or a famine. We either have more work than we can do, or we have nothing to do. The same is often true in the writing life. I either have so many ideas I don’t know what to do with them, or I am drawing a blank. The key is to follow Joseph’s suggestion to Pharaoh about storing up during the feast time for the famine.

There have been several times over the last 6 months that I have had almost an overwhelming number of ideas and concepts for books and articles rain down on me. I was blessed with having a chunk of time and opportunity for multiple Bible studies and for listening to podcasts and sermons. I was also blessed to take a writing seminar that jump started my writing practice. Suddenly I had all of these breakthroughs with projects that I had been stuck on for ages, plus ideas for even more. What was I going to do with all these ideas whirling around in my brain?

I decided to start an idea box, project notebooks, and a journal. When I have an idea for an article or blog post, I put it on an index card or sticky note and put it in a little decorative cardboard box. I also write down ideas for novels on sticky notes and keep all the related notes in a notebook for that project. The other things God shows me I write in a journal every night to clear my mind and get ready for rest. I store these revelations for times of famine.

And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. 25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.

Exodus 16:22-26

Right now I am under a couple of writing deadlines, and usually I spend most of Friday morning coming up with an idea for my blog posts and working it out for submission. I really don’t have that kind of time for the month of October because I need to work on other projects. Last week as I was listening to podcasts and reading God gave me enough rough ideas for five blog posts. He gave me enough ideas ahead of time that I could meet my deadlines and still get some much needed rest.

God knows what is coming, and He provides the extra portion that we need. Instead of eating until we are sick at the feast put some aside for times of famine. Then we can call upon the storehouse to maintain us. For the same reason we should study the Bible and memorize scripture when we have the opportunity so that we will have a supply to draw from during seasons of spiritual famine. So, when God gives you a double portion, store it in your heart (or idea box) so that you have a source of inspiration come the next dry spell.

What Motivates You?

The answer this week has been a palmetto bug, a missing filling, and a sick cat. I’m pretty sure none of those are on any list given by motivational speakers. Still pain and potential suffering are always strong motivators on a good day. However, at the time I couldn’t see the purpose in any of the events, but God does have a way of getting our attention. It all started one morning when I was brushing my teeth and seemed to go downhill from there.

33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:33-34

Earlier this week, a 4-week-old filling fell out of my tooth for no apparent reason. I was merely brushing my teeth, gently, when it was suddenly gone. The truth is the tooth had felt rough to the touch since I regained feeling the day it was put in, but I was just dealing with it, hoping it would smooth out over time. After all the dental work I had done this year, I didn’t want to go back to the dentist for a while. I was willing to make do, but when it fell out, the nerve was exposed. Talk about motivation to get back to the dentist ASAP! Now, it is smooth and comfortable, and I am grateful it is repaired.

The palmetto bug was a gift of sorts from Sassy, one of my cats. On the night I was trying not to disturb the exposed nerve of my tooth, the cats decided to stay by my side to support me. However, she decided to bring the entertainment. I remember her dropping something on the bed. I assumed it was a toy mouse because she does this quite often; however, the other cats soon got involved in the “hunt” for said mouse. At one point I turned on the light and looked myself because they were keeping me awake, but I found nothing. The next morning when I made the bed I still saw nothing. That night when I pulled back the covers, there was a palmetto bug. She had brought it up on the bed to play with and then lost it. I am now motivated to strip the bed and wash the sheets. I would have been tempted to put off the chore for another day or maybe week (Don’t judge!). Now, it is next on my agenda.

The same night my geriatric tomcat, who has IBS, woke me up by walking across me multiple times and whining in my ear. I tried to ignore him. Then, I heard the sound of a cat getting sick somewhere near, which motivated me to make sure it wasn’t on my bed. I got up and found the issue and proceeded to clean it up at 2:30 AM. However, it is better to clean it up when it happens than to find said places the hard way.

I didn’t realize it when it was happening, but all of these irritations were motivations to get up and get moving when I just wanted to curl up in bed and sleep. There was the temptation to just deal with it tomorrow, but as the saying goes tomorrow never comes.

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

John 9:4

I know it is better to take care of issues as they come up, whether it is a bad tooth or just a task we don’t want to do. The same is true of the good things in life, like enjoying a sunset or using the fine china. We only have today, so let’s make the most of it. Let’s get those pesky chores done early and then go enjoy what the day may bring.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 6:34

So, get the things you dread the most off of your list first and then go get a cup of tea or coffee, pet an animal or hug a kid, and do something you enjoy. Let God handle tomorrow. He’s better at it anyway.

Heart’s Desire

Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?

How many times have you heard someone ask this question? How many times have you asked this question? The Bible says in Psalm 37:4 that he will give us the desires of our heart. Usually, the request is for something good, so why isn’t God fulfilling our heart’s desire?

Many times we take verses or phrases out of context without looking at the complete picture. We see the promise, but we don’t look at the requirements for the fulfillment of the promise, or we don’t look at the specifics of the verse in its context.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalms 37:4-5

The first part of Psalms 37:4 says “delight thyself also in the Lord.” What does it mean to delight thyself in the Lord? It means to make God your greatest desire and, like King David, be a person after God’s own heart. If we want what God wants, then we will have the desires of our hearts. While what we are asking for may be good in and of itself, it may not be the best or it may be for the wrong reasons.

So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; 30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, 31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

Psalms 78:29-31

The Israelites were wandering through the desert and cried out for meat. So, what’s wrong with meat? They were hungry, so why shouldn’t they ask for meat? First, they weren’t starving. God had been providing food for them each day. Second, manna was considered food of the angels, the best of the best. The issue wasn’t so much their request as it was their attitude. They were ungrateful. God had provided more than enough food on a daily basis, and they didn’t even have to go find it. It magically appeared each morning. They also were asking for common meat when they were getting the food of the angels.

The results are very different as well. When we commit our way unto God and trust in Him, he will bring about the best for us. The result of asking for desires out of our sinful nature is destruction. The phrase “be careful what you ask for” is very appropriate in this situation. How many times have you begged and pleaded for something only to find out what you wanted had negative consequences? You wanted to stay up late, so you woke up tired and grumpy. You wanted to have another doughnut, so you ended up sick and uncomfortable. The Israelites wanted meat, so they ate until they were sick, and then suffered the wrath of God for their ungrateful attitudes.

You see, it wasn’t that they asked for meat. God had rescued them from the hands of Egyptian bondage through signs and miracles. God had parted the waters so that they could cross on dry land and watch their enemies drowned in the same water. They had been given water out of a rock and manna from Heaven on a daily basis, but it was never enough. The sinful nature is never satisfied, but a spiritual nature that makes God’s desires their own is content. The truth is we don’t know what is best for us. We can’t see what the future holds, but God can. He only wants the best for us, so if we delight in him and let Him have His way, then we will have more than we ever dreamed possible.

Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

Psalms 78:41

Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37), but we can get in the way of God’s blessings when we try to tell Him what to do and how to do it. Someone sang a song at church recently that said I pray that you would “keep me in your will so I won’t be in your way.” When we delight in God, we will be given more than we ever thought possible.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Ephesians 3:20

He wants so much more for us than we even can imagine. So, delight yourself in the Lord and be a person after God’s own heart, and then watch what He will do.

Test Prep

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

When do you study for a test? Do you start from the moment you are given new material, or wait until the last minute and try to cram all the information into your head at once? Either method could work, but what won’t work is waiting until you are in the midst of the test to try to learn the material.

I remember having to take an open book test once and everyone was so excited. Many of the students decided they didn’t have to study because they could just look up the information. However, when we got the test, I was thankful that I had already read and marked the chapters because it was easier and quicker to find the answers. Since there were a ton of questions to answer, it was possible to run out of time before completing the test. It pays to prepare.

The truth is that tests are always coming. Most of the ones we face in life are not given a letter grade. Sometimes it is pass or fail, and sometimes it is comportment or how we behaved. So, how do we prepare for life’s tests? I have found I get the best results from good study habits.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Matthew 6:7

First, we have to actually study, which means reading the material, taking notes, and even memorizing verses. However, memorizing only takes you so far because memorizing is not the same as learning. Ever memorize information long enough to take a test and then promptly download the information afterwards? If you really want to pass life’s tests, you have to let the words seep into your soul so that when you find yourself in the midst of a test, the words will come back to you. We do this by meditating on the words and what they mean.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

Second, we need to do more than just meditate. James tells us that we have to do more than just listen or read the words; we have to do what the words say. When studying any topic, you learn by applying what you are reading. I can read a knitting pattern all day long, study the notes, and look at the pictures, but if I never pick up my knitting needles, the pattern is relatively useless.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:9

We learn by practicing, knowing that we probably won’t always get it right, but we will get better. We can’t just do it one time and do it perfectly. We have to keep doing it on a consistent basis to maintain our skill level and even improve.  The end result is the peace of God in our lives even during the test.

With that in mind, you might want to get a jump start on studying because you never know when there might be a pop quiz on the horizon. I often find that God uses my daily Bible reading to prepare me for what is coming next. It’s not a pass or fail on a pop quiz that I worry about though. My goal is a “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). So don’t beat yourself up over a failure because learning from your mistakes is still learning, and God is looking for those with a willingness to learn. Are you ready?

Daily Benefits

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

Psalm 68:19

Modern society frequently is obsessed with stuff, never content. We often complain about what we don’t have because we forget what we do have. For example, I had needed my house to be switched from a fuse box to a breaker box, partially because I couldn’t add a plug to move my refrigerator or add a dishwasher until it was replaced and reallocated. When it was finally completed and I could move my fridge, I was so excited because I could finally finish some projects and reattach the water line for filtered water dispenser. Every time I went in the kitchen and used the dispenser, I smiled. Soon, however, I noticed other things I “needed” in the house. My joy started to dissipate because I was focused on what I didn’t have instead of with the things God had already given me.

Psalm 68 says we are daily loaded with benefits from God. Loaded means stacked high, overflowing, more than we need. Every day God gives us benefits that we take for granted, starting with getting up in the morning to a new day. I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about 2020 being such a horrible year, and I have been prone to agree with them, yet God gave us another year, which is not a gift everyone was given. Most of the people complaining still had what they needed for every day survival. Above that God gives us little blessings as well, but we can only see them if we look for them.

So, take a moment and look around at what you do have. If you can read this, then you probably have a roof over your head, electricity, and electronics. Think back over your day. Did anything good happen? Was there a kind word, a door held open, a chat with friends or neighbors, the love of a pet, or just a ray of sunshine on a drab day? We look at the news and social media and think about all the bad things out there, but do we look at the good things? If you dig a little deeper, you can find stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people trying to meet needs and giving of themselves. The good is still out there.

When you feel yourself overwhelmed by all the bad news and negativity, turn off the television or social media and take out a piece of paper and a pen. Make a list of things to be thankful for in your life. Start with where you are sitting and look around. What do you have here and now? Start with the four walls around you and then move further out into your neighborhood, your country, your world.

I bet you can come up with at least 5 things to be grateful for; actually, I bet your paper can’t hold all the benefits God has given you if you really think about it. Maybe start a gratitude journal. The enemy wants us to focus on perceived needs which are usually just wants in disguise, but God says meditate on His word (Joshua 1:8) because it will keep us focused and grounded on what is true.

What benefit are your grateful for today? I am grateful to have access to a dentist but even more grateful I don’t have to see him again until next year. I am grateful the rain gives me an excuse not to mow the yard. I am grateful for a little furball who snuggles close and purrs even if she emits warmth like a heating pad on a hot summer day. I am grateful for a car that keeps moving even though mechanics warned me years ago that I needed to replace it. I am thankful for a God who gives daily blessings even when we complain. How about you?

A few of my favorite things:

All Things

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

In the movie Signs, an Episcopal priest has left the church following the death of his wife in a car accident. Her last words are an odd message that doesn’t make sense at the time. His son has severe asthma, his daughter is obsessed with leaving glasses of water all over the house, and his younger brother has returned after a failed professional baseball career. It sounds like his life has been cursed with bad luck; however, later in the film we see that all those negatives eventually save the lives of the entire family.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Like the priest in the movie, we all have trouble sometimes reconciling the concept of a loving God with some of the trials we face, but we have to remember that the verse does not say all things are good. It says God words all things together for our good. Sometimes what we think of as bad things are a means to our good.

For example, I spent a good bit of time complaining about having developed dry eyes as well as having a truck load of dental work suddenly needing done. Besides the money issue, my body reacts to the numbing shots by getting the shakes, and the dry eyes required using prescription eye drops. God worked out the money issue by sending an anonymous angel to pay for two dental crowns and providing a coupon from the drug company to make the eye drops affordable ($20 for 3 month supply). Yet, I was still complaining about having the issues at all until I realized they were actually a blessing in disguise.

First, the dry eyes required using steroid drops and another prescription twice a day, so I was constantly rinsing my eyes with medication. Second, the numbing shots have epinephrine, which has another effect besides the shaking: it tends to clear out my sinuses. Add to that the fact that we have had more rain than usual this year, and it adds up to the best allergy season I have ever been through, which also kept my immune system stronger. On top of that, my local honey provider had a “bumper crop” this past year, so I had access to honey which also helped strengthen my immunity and ward off sinusitis and sinus infections. Given the current state of things that was definitely a blessing.

Sometimes we are put in places or seasons of difficulty, and all we want is to get out of it. I am including myself in this group. Yet, maybe we should focus on what we have been given and asking God to use the difficult situation to be a blessing in some way. In the book of Judges, Gideon finds himself in a difficult situation, and God gives him what many would call strange instructions.

And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.

Judges 7:16

When Gideon was faced with a battle that seemed insurmountable, God whittled his army down to 300 and told him to give each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp. With those three things, God won the battle for Israel. The sudden sounds and appearance of light sent the enemy into confusion so that they ran and actually killed each other. God took three household items and turned them into a way to take down the enemy.

What do you have in your hands right now? It may seem small and insignificant but God can use it for good. It will probably require some effort on your part; the army of 300 still had to show up with items in their hands and use them as instructed. Then God did amazing things; He worked it all for good to those who were called to His purpose. Right now I have a half-numb jaw, an abandoned house across the street, and a computer. I think I feel a mystery coming on; it’s probably better than what is on television.

August

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.”

Augustus Caesar

The word august actually means inspiring reverence, supreme dignity, majestic, venerable, or eminent. The month of August is named after Augustus Caesar. I can see how some would connect the idea of majesty and dignity with a ruler of the Roman Empire; however, I am not so sure how it is connected to the month of August in Alabama.

August is usually one of the worst months of summer. For some it is terrible because it represents the end of summer and the return of the school year. For others, it is the ironic combination of humidity and drought conditions. How can the grass be so dry in some yards while everyone drips with perspiration from the level of moisture in the air and the blistering sun overhead?

For my mother, I am sure the month prior to my birth must have been even more unbearable. According to the doctor, I should have been born near the beginning of August, but I came around Labor Day. So, the term pregnant pause took on new meaning. The days must have been long and hot, and it was the height of canning season, which made it even hotter. I remember childhood summers washing and chopping vegetables under the pecan tree outside in order to avoid the heat of the kitchen as the pressure cooker pushed the thermometer even higher inside. Would it ever end?

Then came September with the promise of fall and cooler temperatures. For my mother, it meant the end of a long pregnancy. For me, in childhood, it meant the return to school. I loved school both for the books and the air-conditioning. I appreciated both because of August, because it had been a hot month full of picking and canning from sun-up to sundown. Now, I sat in a cool classroom and read, one of my favorite activities, all the more wonderful for its absence. I’m sure my mother felt the same way about the absence of us kids for a few hours a day.

To many people the entire year of 2020 has been an August, a trek through a wilderness filled with constant threat, but like all things this will pass. While the phrase is not directly traceable to a specific scripture, it is a biblical concept. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Everything on earth is temporary. It too will pass, no matter what it is.

However, there is a reason for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” So, while I wait for this August to pass, I also think about the purpose of this time. What is it God wants to do in my life? As Christians, what can we take with us into September or 2021 for that matter? What will we do with what we’ve been given? The world may have given us lemons, but the question remains: will we make sour faces or will we make lemonade? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting thirsty.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.”

Psalm 42:1

The Approach

Last week I was working on a couple of deadlines with a pressure headache, making it hard to think. I sent a draft of one article to the editor with the caveat that I knew it needed work, but I was having trouble getting it right, especially the tone. The editor sent me back notes saying that the tone was definitely negative and suggesting a more positive slant to the same topic of scripture. It was the same idea, but it came at the topic from a different angle that was more about pointing someone in the right direction versus reprimanding them.

Tone will get you every time. No matter how true your words are if the person feels singled out and chastised, they are unlikely to take heed to what you have to say. How many times have you been in an argument and the other party says, “It’s not what you said; it is how you said it”? That, my friend, is tone. It is a common problem, especially in today’s electronic society.

When I was teaching and tutoring online, there was an emphasis on pointing out both the good and bad in an assignment. The trainers suggested the equivalent of a compliment sandwich. You open with what the student had done well, give critiques, and then close with an overview of the paper as a whole focusing on good points and positive suggestions on how to proceed. This approach helped the student know what they were doing right while helping them to improve in weaker areas. The student then felt inspired to make the corrections in order to make their writing better.

So, before we decide to correct someone spiritually, or grammatically, let’s take a look at what advice we can glean from the Bible on the subject. Proverbs is known as a book of wisdom and instruction, and it has a lot to say about words and how we use them:

  • “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
  • “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)
  • The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” (Proverbs 18:4)
  • “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

All of these verses emphasize the idea of good words: wholesome tongue, pleasant words, deep waters, wellspring of wisdom, word fitly spoken. These phrases suggest words that are chosen thoughtfully and not just spouted off the top of our heads. Unfortunately, we are a society that speaks first and thinks later, me included at times; therefore, how should we approach correcting someone?

First, we need to make sure our tone is right, meaning humble and helpful not egotistical and condescending. Second, timing is as important as tone. The acronym HALT is a good one to remember: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. If you, or the other party, are any one of those things, you should probably wait. Finally, and most importantly, we need to figure out our motivation. If we aren’t doing it out of love, humility, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, then we should probably keep our mouths shut.

Now, let’s recap: think before you speak. That pretty much sums it up. It’s simple, but it is not easy. Writers have a step up on other people because we can revise before we publish; however, the way my face looks when people say stupid things is another issue altogether. I should probably work on that and the think before you speak thing. I would say it might require duct tape, but that won’t help the eye rolling. Well, let’s just all try to do our best. We are all a work in progress, which we would all do well to remember.